Unfortunately, it has become more and more common that individuals experience some form of mental incapacity prior to passing away. While many of us could hardly imagine the thought of this ever happening to ourselves, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America estimates that approximately 5.1 million Americans today may have Alzheimer's disease. However, that's only one form of mental illnes and doesn't include the vast array of other mental illnesses out there that can affect one's frame of mind to the point of incapacity (i.e. dementia). As a result, it has become critical that we all start planning today for the worst case scenarios that may occur in the future.
Incapacity is truly a bad scenario but it could turn into a worse one if you don't plan properly. In California, if an individual becomes incapacitated without having a properly executed power of attorney in place, a conservatorship will be required in order to take care of the incapacitated person's affairs. A conservatorship is a costly court process that involves time, cost and lots of headache for your loved ones. Thankfully, you could have something in place today so that your loved ones don't have to go through the conservatorship process in the future.
To do this, you must create and sign a document known as a power of attorney. In the power of attorney, you must name the individual or individuals to make financial and other administrative decisions for you in the event that you cannot make these decisions for yourself. In our office, we prepare a Uniform Statutory Power of Attorney which typically will spring into effect only upon your incapacity. You incapacity must be established by the signed declarations of two licensed physicians, and once those are obtained, your named agents can begin to start acting for you in any way that you've authorized in the power of attorney document (i.e. with regard to real estate, bank accounts, retirement plans, etc.).
We hope that you will never require the use of a power of attorney during your lifetime. However, in our practice, we know that today's reality is that more and more individuals are facing one form of incapacity or another and, without proper planning, a bad situation could very well turn into a tragic one.
We encourage you to establish your own powers of attorney for financial matters today. A power of attorney could only be prepared during your lifetime while you still have capacity, so waiting until it is too late is simply not a solution. Call our office at (714) 459-5481 and one of our attorneys at the Law Office of James F. Roberts & Associates, APC will be happy to assist you with a power of attorney and answer any questions that you have.